Iditarod drug test creator says his departure is bittersweet, holds no grudge
Dr. Morrie Craig has been with the Iditarod for nearly three decades. He's responsible for developing its drug testing program. Though his tenure will continue with The Last Great Race, it will now be as a researcher.
He's no longer the man who the testing goes through. On Saturday, his resignation was accepted by the Iditarod Trail Committee.
The past year has been a turbulent one for him in both Alaska and Oregon.
By phone he said continued public pressure from two of the sport's biggest names played a role in his decision to step aside on Saturday.
"The Seaveys (Mitch and Dallas) coming after me and with respect to the stuff down here at Oregon State," Craig said.
Here in the 49th State, it started with Dallas Seavey, the four-time champion. He was accused by race officials of doping with tramadol, a pain reliever in the 2017 race. Four of his dogs tested positive for the banned substance in Nome, following his completion of the 1,000-mile trip.
Though Craig wasn't responsible for the release of Seavey's name publicly, he soon became ensnared. Seavey was defiant claiming his innocence while questioning the legitimacy of the testing procedures. Seavey sat out 2018 opting instead to run the Finnmarkslopet in Norway where he took third.
This week, his father Mitch said he would not race in 2019 if Dr. Craig were in his current position.
Eventually, it became too much.
"I think it's the chaos that's gone on and I really love the race. I want the race to go and still feature what Joe Redington wanted to do many years ago," Dr. Craig said.
With Craig now gone from the position, Mitch said all signs point towards him racing. Dallas is still undecided though. Mitch does not expect him to run in 2019.
In addition to the Iditarod controversy, Craig is also locked in a legal battle with Oregon State University, his former employer of four decades. In the fall of 2017, he was fired from his position as a professor of toxicology for incidents of bullying and sexual harassment involving two students and a colleague according to the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
Craig says it appears he will be cleared of wrongdoing this summer and that his firing was unjust.
He also stressed this is not the end of his affiliation with the race.
"They want me to come up and address things this fall science-wise and I'm glad to do that and we'll just see. There's an awful lot of friends up there who are supporters. I've had several emails and messages," he said.
With continuous hurdles to overcome, he feels the Iditarod's biggest challenge moving forward is a common one.
"As always the biggest challenge is money because it costs a lot to put on that race," he explained.
Craig reiterated he's proud of his long tenure and that he'll keep working to make the race better. They're testing for many drugs and will continue studying the now infamous tramadol.
When asked about his legacy with the Iditarod, Craig didn't hesitate.
"It's going to be setting up the whole drug testing process and others going and using the same protocols and some of the advances we put together," he said.
Some would be bitter after all the scrutiny. But not Craig.
"It isn't that way," he said. "Remember the big guy upstairs and I'm not real religious and he turns around and says 'Turn the other cheek,' I'm not going to worry about that."
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